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Source: The Long Island Advance

Plan for county center to be introduced


Posted: November 29, 2016
Originally Published: November 23, 2016

The Yaphank County Center Comprehensive Master Plan, completed on Oct. 28, received a negative declaration nod from the Council on Environmental Quality last Wednesday and was scheduled to be laid on the table by Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley) on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

“It means it can move forward without an intensive environmental review,” said Browning chief of staff Josh Slaughter, who was designated chair of the Yaphank County Center Planning Committee.

The plan’s objectives include setting aside 30-60 acres of land reserved for possible future county use for the next 30-50 years, including possible projects coupled with no land sale. As the area has a definite rural feel residents want to preserve, an undeveloped buffer area between the county complex and Yaphank Avenue has been suggested, a minimum of a 100-foot setback from Yaphank Avenue to ensure a green swath. In addition, those new facilities on the 30-60-acre area would be required to have a minimum of a 100-foot buffer from Brookhaven Rail Terminal. The county should also make every effort to increase their buffer to a minimum of 100 feet from BRT’s proposed buffer to the County Farm and Education Center. Buildings constructed should not exceed three stories.

Protection of the Carmans River was also a priority.

Browning, who pushed for creating a master plan and committee, said she’s hoping the legislature will accept the master plan and adopt it, possibly in a December vote. “There are a few comments we sent to the committee to see if they want to change it, but nothing major,” she said. If the legislature votes to adopt it, “the planning department will have a copy of it and the county executive’s office will have it if they want to do anything,” she said of the master plan.

Chad Trusnovec, vice president of the Yaphank Taxpayers & Civic Association and member of the master plan committee, whose family helped settle the hamlet, said he was happy with the results of the plan. Trusnovec represented the Yaphank community with YTCA president Linda Petersen, a former Brookhaven Town Planning Board member.

“The original idea is that they wanted to clear 40 acres for solar panels, which I was adamantly opposed to, and I think we did a very good job of not having that happen, so we put in a pretty strong emphasis on using whatever property is already cleared, rooftops and parking lots for solar panels,” he said of that inclusion. “Also, we wanted to keep the campus-like feel and not have large, tall buildings, and buffers along Yaphank Avenue, so you’re not changing the appearance dramatically. I think we did a really good job of that.”

Trusnovec said he was particularly happy with the suggested 30 percent build-out with a cap of 60 acres.

“We went over population growths and looking at back in the 1970s, it was projected to be at 3 million and that didn’t happen,” Trusnovec said. “It’s at a million and a half. So there was not going to be any foreseeable need [for more than the 30 percent].

Petersen said she was happy with Slaughter chairing the committee and the guest speakers brought in so they could hammer out suggestions. Her concerns included those of Trusnovec and others regarding the use of woodlands for a solar farm. “I think we came up with an alternative,” she said.

But she would like a larger buffer between Brookhaven Rail Terminal and the county farm because of possible long-term effects. “We have children going to the farm,” she pointed out.

It was a 75-foot buffer, said Trusnovec; the group was hoping for 100 feet or more. The county master plan states that BRT’s proposed buffers to the county farm are not sufficient and could negatively impact the farm’s programs and character of the farm.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine suggested a 200-foot buffer to preserve the character and nature of the farm in a Nov. 15 letter.

Slaughter said an agreement was signed with the town and BRT; a 75-foot buffer was the settlement with the town and was already signed.

“We can enforce a 100-foot buffer along the area we control, but we can’t enforce more than 75 feet for BRT property if that was a town agreement,” he said. “We don’t own that property.”

Slaughter said the county expressed concerns to BRT for more of a buffer; BRT wouldn’t budge, he said.

Romaine said he agreed with most of the plan.

“A lot of the things they suggested were good and we raised a few of the things they might consider in the future,” Romaine said, adding that it would be helpful if new maps were provided for the plan. Also, “they have a salt storage shed behind the Board of Elections. We suggested they move it, so it’s further away from the Carmans River.”

Romaine gave kudos to Browning for forming the committee, adding, “We were the only two who voted against BRT,” he said of the adjacent company.

The master plan committee was formed after the county proposed cutting down trees on the Yaphank campus for solar last November.

Brookhaven Town proposed a solar code amendment in September to nail down appropriate solar siting. Large-scale solar collection systems were pitched on lands zoned J2, J4, J5 and J6 Business and L1 and L2 Industrial. In addition, minimum lot size was reduced from 10 to five acres and there were incentives for rooftop solar systems on commercial and industrial buildings. Planning board approval for a 20 percent maximum increase Floor Area Ration, as well as a reduction in the number of required parking stalls was in the amendment. The town amendment was approved the end of October.

“Solar City responded to the county’s RFP, but there’s no contract yet,” said Slaughter of the proposal to mow down 40 acres of trees, mostly in Yaphank.

The Yaphank County Center is currently comprised of 197.87 undeveloped acres with fragmented parcels and 242.94 developed acres spread over a nearly one-mile location on Yaphank Avenue, as well as 23.70 acres of dedicated parkland. The County Farm consists of 2l8.92 acres and was not considered for development in the plan, as it is a preserved parcel. The primary facilities are a sewage treatment plant, fire training center, a jail complex, the police headquarters complex, SCDPW, SC Board of Elections, SCDOH and SC Vector Control.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment executive director Adrienne Esposito lauded Slaughter for his work on the committee. “I think it is a great step forward in preserving what’s left of Yaphank,” she said. “The goal was to really project how much land the county would need for increased growth and preserve the rest. We met with BRT, the county’s Department of Public Works and Department of Health, and Cornell Cooperative Extension. We know the county wants to reserve seven acres for increasing the sewage treatment plant and the police [department] wants to expand its building. Also, there’s potential room for the correctional facility and FRES. It’s a great beginning to preserve Yaphank.”